One of the most unique and pristine estuaries in North East Florida, Guana River is a bounty of great paddling and Kayak Fishing. With close proximity to the greater Jacksonville area and St. Augustine, Guana offers a variety of habitats that attract many forms of wildlife. Known officially as the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Preserve, the area boasts some of the best shallow saltwater fishing in the State. The Timucuan Native Americans were the first to inhabit the region, and have left an imprint of archaeological and historical evidence, most of which is still waiting to be discovered. During the French and Spanish colonization, the coastal barrier island system became an integral part of early colonial trade routes and plantation systems. Through the British Period, the area harbored Black Beard and other legends of the time. After Florida became a state, the remaining fixtures faded into the pioneer and cracker styles of early twentieth century Florida. Then came Henry Flagler and the railroad days, and Guana became an area of pristine coastal wilderness, that has seen the changes of time all along the First Coast.
Our tour of the area is usually around the southern portion of the preserve down and around Shell Bluff. It is a tidal area that has breezy coastal winds that brush along and help to shape the coastline. The Coastal tree Hammock has a variety of local flora and fauna. There are seasonal and normal varieties of maritime birds, and lots of favorite species to fish for. There are also mammals such as manatees and the occasional family of porpoise. Oyster beds and tidal flats are the main type of shoreline, and the forests have pine and lazy oaks that are still rather large in size. The closer you get to the Atlantic Ocean, the more sand dunes and palmetto thickets you will encounter. The other portion of Guana River is to the north of the causeway and dam. It is referred to as the “lakeside” or non-tidal flood controlled area. Several miles north of the main entrance is the “Six Mile” landing. This portion is flood controlled and contains a mix of saltwater from the dam, as well as fresh water from small creeks, tributaries,and rainfall. During the plantation era, big locks were dredged out to form rice fields and to capture water for irrigation and usage on the Indigo Plantations. This portion has seasonal usage, and has more fresh water species of birds and reptiles, like the American alligator. The fishing here yields sea trout, red fish, and flounder. The lake still remains more brackish than totally fresh water.
When looking to book a trip for a half day, note that there are two areas to paddle in the Guana River park. The most common is the trip that runs from the southern portion of the park and down towards the Shell Bluff area. The wildlife is more specific to the salt water estuary environment here. The lake portion and area north of the dam have more of a brackish water and fresh water environment. It is more likely to see alligators and seasonal birds from other regions of the North American Continent. This tends to be one of the easiest and most accessible areas for paddling in Northern Florida.
10051 Skinner Lake Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32246